Page images

and necessarily a respect to a change of heart ? have been answered contradictory to fact.--Of all the questions I proposed hiin, two only have received answers from him agreeable to scripture, reason and fact. But as the falla a cy and incongruity of his replies are sufficiently obvious from what I have already said, I proceed to investigate the evidence in his favor from church listory.

That infant baptisin and infant sprinkling are practices of great antiquity, no man conversant with ecclesiastical history will dey; but neither infant baptism nor sprinkling were taught or practised in the Christian church, for many years after the Apostolic age. This assertion I shalt abundantly prove. The antiquity of any practice, or of any doctrine, not expressly revealeđ in sacred scripture, is, to a Christian, a matter of no consideration. There were inany things taught and practised in the first and second centuries of Christianity, that all protestants, that all professed Christians except the church of Rome, reject as unscriptural, as unapostolical. If we then admit that any thing taught or practised in the first, second or third centuries, should be believed and practised now, because of its antiquity, we should admit and practice all things of equal antiquity. Again: if we quete some of those vererable fathers, as they are called, as authorities, who lived in those ancient times, we should take the whole of theit testimony, and receive and practice all that they taught. Consistency, which is another name for reason, requires this at least. The 89 Apostolical catrons, said to have been taught in the first century, and by many ascribed to the Apostles themselves, should be held by us, on these principles, as sacred as they are held by the church of Rome. Ecclesiastical history furnishes us with debates on certain doctrines and practices, in the first and second centuries, which some Christians still maintain, but which all presbyterians of every grade reject; and the very ar. guments which the Presbyterians use against Romanists and Episcopalians, will equally apply to themselves, when arguing in support of infant baptism. Some of those very authors, and others of still greater antiquity, 'which Mr. Walker has cited, are cited by Romanists and Episcopalians to establish the divine right of Episcopacy, the observance of Easter, the celibacy of the clergy, the doctrine of Pargatory, and other peculiarities of these religious cornmunities. Let my opponent consider low

he would refute the arguments of the supporters of either Roman, German, or English Episcopacy, and he will soon discover how easily I will refute his.

Tiere is a certain degree of veneration attached to things ancient. Even religious customs and ceremonies, that have no other authority than their antiquity, become venerable in the estimation of many. But the reverse should be the fate of unauthorized tradition, or unscriptural reli. gious customs, how ancient so ever. Truth is more ancient than error, and will finally triumplı. These gen. eral principles stated, I proceed to ascertain the antiquity of infant baptisin, and to examine what credit is due the testimonies that have been presented from antiquity. I proceed to affirm that there is not any record extant in the world, that mentions infant baptism existing for 150 year's after the Christian era. This declaration I make not upon the authority of any retailer of historical scraps, as John P. Campbell, or even the great Mr. Robinson, so formidable to the pedo-baptists, and the aforesaid Mr. Campbell; but upon a patient investigation of the only true sources of primitive antiquity; the writings of the immediate successors of the Apostles-the ecclesiastical history of Eusebius, the oldest and most authoritative on carth-and that of Du Pin, Doctor of the Sorbon, appro. ved of by the holy mnother Church, the greatest advocate in the world for tradition and ancient religious customs. 'Tis easy for any man of ingenuity to flourish away in detailing scraps, which appear in whatever light he is pleased to place them and which, when torn from their context, become so passive in his hand, as to assume whatever features he pleases to impress on them. I beg your attention, while I read you every thing that is said on the doctrine of baptism, in the genuine epistles of the Apostolical fathers, St. Barnabas, St. Ignatius, St. Clement, St. Polycarp, and the Shepherd of Hermas; translated from the original Greek, by William, Lord Bishop of Lincoln'e

from the second edition, London printed, 1710. I presume neither my opponent, nor many in this Western country, ever saw these epistles, as they are now very rare, even in Europe, and cannot but with great difficulty be obtained. 66 They contain a complete collection of the most primitive antiquity for 150 years after Christ.", The first extract I shall make from these epistles will be from that of Barnabas, Paul's companion in travel, chap...

11. I will transcribe the whole chapter, which is the only one in his epistle on the subject.

“ Let us now," says he, “ enquire whether the Lord took care to manifest any thing before hand, concerning water and the cross. Now for the former of these, it is written to the people of Israel; how they shall not receive that baptism which brings to forgiveness of sins, but shall institute another to themselves that cannot-for thus saith the prophet, “Be astonished, 0 Heavens! and let the carth tremble at it, because this people have done two great and wicked things; they have left me, the fountain of living waters, and have digged for themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water. Is my holy mountain Zion, a desolate wilderness ? For she shall be as a young bird when its nest is taken away." And again, the prophet saith, I will go before thee and will make plain tie inountains, and will break the gates of brass, and will. snap in sunder the bars of iron : and will give thee dark and hidden and invisible treasures, that they may know that I am the Lord God." And again, he shall dwell in the high den of the strong rock." And then what follows in the same prophet? His water is faithful : ye shall see the king with glory, and your sout shall learn the fear of the Lord." And again, he saith, in another prophet : " He that does these things, shall be like a tree planted by the currents of water, whichi

, shall give its fruit iu. its season, its leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doth it shall prosper. As for the wicked it is not so with them, but they are as the dust which the wind scattereth away from the face of the earth. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, neither the sinners in the council of the righteous. For the Lord kpoweth the way of the righteous, and the way of the ungodly shall perish.” 6. Consider how he hath joined both the cross and the water together. For this he saith ;“ Blessed are they who putting their trust in the cross descend into tke water; for they shall have their reward, in due time: then, saith he, will I give it then." But as concerning the present time, Tie saith their leazes shall not fail.” Meaning thereby, tijat everyonvord at shall go out of your mouth, shall, through faca and charity, be to the conversion and hope of many

In like manner does another prophet speak :" And the land of Jacob was the praise of all the earth; " magnifying thereby the vessels of his spirit; and what

follows ? “ And there was a river running on the right hand, and beautiful-trees grew up by it; and he that shall eat of them shall live for ever.! The signification of which is this :-that we go-town into the water full of sins and pollutions, but come up again bringing forth fruit ; having in our hearts the fear and hope which is in Jesus by the spirit. "And whosoever shall eat of then shall live forever.” That is, whosoever shall hearken to those that call them and shall believe,.shalt live for ever.”

Such is the whole testimony of St. Barnabas on the doctrine of baptism. I have read the whole chapter in which it occurs, and every hearer must perceive, that the only baptism taught and enjoyed in this Epistle of Barnabas, is the immersion of belieters. He interprets Old Testament scriptures with a reference to it, and predicts from them, that a spùrious baptism would be substituted in its stead. His prediction, alas, has proved too true!I have here to observe, that there is nothing in this testimony of Barnabas, that does not perfectly coincide with the scripture doctrine of baptisın ; so that it is no new revelation of the spirit, but a confirmation of the revela. tion already made. I am sorry to say, that this last obser.. vation cannot be applied to many of those extracts made by my opponent.

The next extract which I'make from this volume of priinitive fathers, is from the Shepherd of Hermas.-This Hermas is commonly supposed to be that Hermas of whom Paul speaks, Rom. 16, 14:36 Salute Asyncritus, Pelegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren that are with them.". In the book of Similitudes, chap. 16th, he compares. the church to a tower, and particular members to stones. In relation to these stones the question is proposed--- Why diil these stones come up out of the deep, and were placed into the building of this tower, seeing that they long ago carried those holy spirits !--It was necessary,

said he, for tliem to ascend by wuter, that they might be at rest. For they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God, but by laying aside the mortal-. ity of their former life :--they, therefore, being dead, , were nevertheless sealed with the seat of the son of God, and so entered into the kingdom of God. For before a man receives the name of the son of God, he is or. dained unto death ; but when he receives that seal, he is freed from deatb and assigned unto life. Now that seat

is the water of baptism, into which mer go down under the obligation unto death, but come up appointed unto life. Wherefore, to those also was this seal preached, and they made use of it, that they might enter into the kingdom of God." He then asks the question, why those Apostles and teachers who are spiritually alive went down with them into the waters of baptism; to which he answers, “Because these Apostles and teachers who preached the name of the son of God, dying after they had received his faith and power, preached to them who. were dead before, and they gave this seal to them. They went down, therefore, into the water with them, and again came up. But these went down whilst they were alive, and came up again alive; whereas, those who were before dead, went down dead, but came up alive. Through these, therefore, they received life, and knew the son of God: for which cause they came up with them, anıl were fit to come into the building of the tower; and were not cut, but put in entire. Because they died in righteousness and in great purity only, this seal was wanting to them-thus you have the explication of these things."

Thus far speaks Hermas, in the 16th chapter of his Similitudes-from which we learn that the inmersion of believers was the only baptism taught and practised by St. Hermas. There is but one other reference to baptism in all this work, which is in a book called " the commands of St. Hermas." Coinmand 4th, chap. 3, at the beginning, " And I said unto him, I have even now heard from certain teachers, that there is no other repentance besides that of baptism, when we go down into the water, and receive the forgiveness of sins, and that after that we should sin ny more,

but live in purity. And he said unto me, Thou hast been rightly informed."

Having now closely and repeatedly examined the two epistles of Clemment to the Corinthians, the epistle of, Polycarp to the Phillippians, the epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, the epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, his epistles to the Traillians, the Romans, the Philadelphians, the Smyrneans, and his epistle to Polycarp, together with the Catholic epistle of Barnabas, and the genuine works of St. Hermas, I can declare, that the above three extracts are the only passages in the above mentioned epistles, in wbich baptism is mentioned, and that these

« PreviousContinue »